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PAGE 5

The Legend Of William Tell
by [?]

Tell succeeded in guiding the vessel to the shore. Then seizing his bow and arrows, which his captors had thrown beside him, he sprang ashore at a point known as “Tell’s Leap.” The boat, rebounding, after he leaped from it was again driven out on the lake before any of the remainder of its occupants could effect a landing. After a time, however, the fury of the storm abated, and they reached the shore in safety.

In the meantime Tell had concealed himself in a defile in the mountain through which Gessler would have to pass on his way to Kussnacht. There he lay in wait for his persecutor who followed in hot pursuit.

Vowing vengeance as he went, Gessler declared that if the fugitive did not give himself up to justice, every day that passed by should cost him the life of his wife or one of his children. While the tyrant was yet speaking, an arrow shot by an unerring hand pierced his heart. Tell had taken vengeance into his own hands.

The death of Gessler was the signal for a general uprising. The oath-bound men of Rutli saw that this was their great opportunity. They called to their countrymen to follow them to freedom or death.

Gessler’s crowning act of tyranny–his inhuman punishment of Tell–had roused the spirit of rebellion in the hearts of even the meekest and most submissive of the peasants. Gladly, then, did they respond to the call of the leaders of the insurrection.

The legend says that on New Year’s Eve, 1308, Stauffacher, with a chosen band of followers, climbed the mountain which led to Landenberg’s fortress castle of Rotzberg. There they were assisted by an inmate of the castle, a young girl whose lover was among the rebels. She threw a rope out of one of the windows of the castle, and by it her countrymen climbed one after another into the castle. They seized the bailiff, Landenberg, and confined him in one of the dungeons of his own castle. Next day the conspirators were reinforced by another party who gained entrance to the castle by means of a clever ruse. Landenberg and his men were given their freedom by the peasants on condition that they would quit Switzerland forever.

The castle of Uri was attacked and taken possession of by Walter Furst and William Tell, while other strongholds were captured by Arnold of Melchthal and his associates.

Bonfires blazed all over the country. The dawn of Switzerland’s freedom had appeared. The reign of tyranny was doomed. William Tell was the hero of the hour, and ever since his name has been enshrined in the hearts of his countrymen as the watchword of their liberties. Even to this day, as history tells us, the Swiss peasant cherishes the belief that “Tell and the three men of Rutli are asleep in the mountains, but will awake to the rescue of their land should tyranny ever again enchain it.”

Lamartine, to whose story of William Tell the writer is indebted, commenting on the legend says: “The artlessness of this history resembles a poem; it is a pastoral song in which a single drop of blood is mingled with the dew upon a leaf or a tuft of grass. Providence seems thus to delight in providing for every free community, as the founder of their independence, a fabulous or actual hero, conformable to the local situation, manners, and character of each particular race. To a rustic, pastoral people, like the Swiss, is given for their liberator a noble peasant; to a proud, aspiring race, such as the Americans, an honest soldier. Two distinct symbols, standing erect by the cradles of the two modern liberties of the world to personify their opposite natures: on the one hand Tell, with his arrow and the apple; on the other, Washington, with his sword and the law.”